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You can face illegal harassment, discrimination by subordinates

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2024 | Employees' Rights |

People typically associate workplace discrimination and harassment with situations wherein the perpetrator is higher up on the chain of command than the victim – or at least at the same level.

It would seem that if someone exhibited this behavior toward a manager, that manager could simply require them to stop and fire them if they didn’t. That’s not always the case, however – especially if an employer refuses to support the manager who’s facing the harassment.

What does it look like when supervisors are the victims?

In one case, a woman alleged that her employer allowed a hostile work environment and then terminated her when she complained about it. She says that a group of her male subordinates not only subjected her to harassment based on her gender and race but also were physically aggressive towards her. She said that her employer not only wouldn’t let her fire them but allowed the behavior to continue.

In another case, a supervisor with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) proved that she had been subjected to a hostile work environment by a subordinate who exhibited “volatile behavior.” She said that she had requested a transfer to get away from this employee but was denied it. The ruling in the case affirmed that she’d suffered discrimination based on her race and gender.

In another case, a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) supervisor alleged that two of her subordinates spread rumors about her sexual orientation and undermined her authority. Instead of dealing with those subordinates, her superiors reassigned her to a less preferable shift.

Everyone’s rights are the same – regardless of their position

What’s important to remember is that everyone has a right to expect a workplace free from unlawful discrimination and harassment. Just because someone has authority (even considerable authority) over others, that doesn’t mean they can’t be subjected to these things by peers and even subordinates.

Everyone can and should report discrimination and harassment and expect their employer to investigate and take steps to deal with the issue. If they don’t, it may be necessary to get legal guidance to protect the rights of workers who have been affected by unlawful mistreatment.


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